Viktor Orbán challenges the European position by becoming the first European leader to meet with Putin in recent months | International
The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, launched a challenge to the partners of the European Union this Tuesday by becoming the first leader of the community bloc to meet with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, since the International Criminal Court issued the last March an arrest warrant against him for alleged war crimes for his involvement in the “illegal deportation of Ukrainian children.” The bilateral meeting took place in Beijing, where both leaders went to attend the international forum that marks the 10th anniversary of the New Silk Road, the infrastructure megaprogram with which the Asian giant seeks to connect to the world.
In April 2022, Putin received the Austrian Chancellor, Karl Nehammer, without photos and behind closed doors, the first from a European leader since the Russian leader ordered his troops to launch an offensive on Ukraine in February. Nehammer, one of the main defenders of the purchase of Russian gas within the EU, went to the Kremlin on a trip that sparked criticism both in his country and in the community bloc.
On this occasion in Beijing, the two leaders have shown closeness face to face. “Hungary has never wanted to confront Russia,” said Orbán, the community leader closest to the Kremlin since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. “On the contrary, Hungary's objective has always been to establish and expand mutual contacts. And we have achieved it. But due to the 'special military operation' [guerra de Ucrania] and the sanctions [de la UE]these relationships have unfortunately lost a lot. “It has damaged the fabric that you and I built together,” she added, as reported by Reuters.
“Although in the current geopolitical conditions the opportunities to maintain contacts and develop relations are very limited, it cannot but cause satisfaction that our relations with many European countries are maintained and developed. One of these countries is Hungary,” Putin confessed during the meeting, which took place at the Diaoyutai residence, where the Chinese Government usually hosts official visitors.
The Russian president recalled the intense economic ties developed in recent decades by both nations and assured that in 2022 there will still be an increase in cooperation. “Unfortunately, this year we have seen a decline in the first seven months. It has dropped by 35%,” Putin added.
13 meetings in 14 years
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Orbán has assured that, of the 13 meetings they have had since 2009, this has been the most complicated. “We have never been in a more difficult situation.” The Hungarian has described the exchange as “the toughest to date,” according to the Russian agency TASS.
“Of course, it is very important to have the opportunity to exchange views not only on bilateral relations, but also on the situation in the world and in Europe with one of the EU countries,” Putin said, according to the aforementioned agency. “We know that our positions do not always coincide, but an opportunity to exchange views, in my opinion, is always extremely important.”
The Government of Budapest has assured that the leaders have discussed oil and gas shipments – both sectors are subject to sanctions from Brussels – and nuclear energy issues.
The Hungarian, a loose verse of the twenty-seven in countless subjects, has often shown his discontent with the sanctions imposed by Brussels on Russia for the war, which he has been accepting reluctantly and often with exceptions and reservations. He has also blocked the shipment of weapons to Ukraine. The two last met on February 1, 2022, just three weeks before Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainian border. Since the invasion, which blew up relations between the EU capitals and the Kremlin machinery, the leaders of the twenty-seven have marked distances and avoided Putin, although in April 2022, with the war already started, the chancellor Austrian Karl Nehammer visited Moscow to meet with the Russian.
Orban is another case apart. He has also been the only leading community leader who has traveled to Beijing to attend the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation - the official name of the event - in which delegations from more than 140 countries participate. At the event, to which China gives utmost importance, Putin has a privileged position and is expected to give a speech on the opening day on Wednesday, after the words of the host, Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, it is not common to see the Russian leader traveling abroad. Last week he left his country for the first time since the international arrest warrant was issued against him in March. He went on an official visit to Kyrgyzstan, a nation that does not recognize the International Criminal Court, nor does China.
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